Hamlet Style Analysis
Ludia H, Topher S, Linda C, Helen F
King Hamlet Ghost Soliloquy Paraphrase
Hamlet, Act I, scene v
Oh that horrible, incestuous man who uses his power and wit to seduce the most virtuous and innocent queen.
Oh Hamlet, how tragic my death is, that I did all I could to have a good marriage, yet my brother whose gifts are inferior to mine seduced the queen.
A virtuous person will always be virtuous, and vice versa, therefore, once a lustful person always a lustful person.
This is why the queen was able to move onto garbage so quickly.
Wait, the morning is coming soon so I must rush to tell you.
I was sleeping in the orchard like I always do, and in my most vulnerable state, my brother snuck up on me and poisoned me with poisonous juice in my ear. The poison he used coursed quickly through my veins in my body, that I broke out in a crusty rash immediately.
While I was sleeping, my brother was able to take away my life, my crown, and my queen all at once. He cut off my sinful life short so I wasn’t able to repent my sins.
I went to the afterlife with all my sins still a part of me.
Oh this is horrible.
If you have any sense of justice, don’t just stand by and let this incestuous man rule denmark in luxury.However you decide to seek revenge, don’t let it be at the cost of your mind and your mother’s well being. Leave her to her own guilt and God’s judgement. I have to go, morning’s coming. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, remember me.
Claudius Soliloquy Paraphrase
Hamlet, Act III, scene iii
What I’ve done is so bad that everyone can tell.
I murdered my brother, which was the first murder, and thus the oldest curse surrounds it.
Yet I can't pray about it, because I my ambition still outweighs the guilt I feel. I value where I stand. To me, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Is there not enough grace in heaven to cover up my sin and wash it away?
What good is mercy when I am being confronted?
All prayer can do is stall my fate, thus I will only pray once I have hit rock bottom.
I’ve already committed the act, what good would praying do anyways?
I can't pray because I still want the crown, glory, and the queen.
Could I be forgiven and still be king?
Aggression can be used to serve justice, and often outdoes or outpaces the law.
The action is still evil in nature, and eventually all crimes are confessed, and mine will be no exception.
What if I give in evidence? What happens then?
What good will repentance do for an action like this? I can't repent anyways.
What I have gotten myself into!
Angels, help me. Make my crime go away.
Help me control my body and demeanor, and everything will be okay.
Even while I plead for assistance, my thoughts are still the same.They are empty words, as I have no regret, thus Heaven will never heed them.
Compare and Contrast
They both know that Claudius is lustful and overly ambitious, and doesn’t regret his actions.
Both seem to think the queen innocent and as the true prize
They both realize the innate wickedness of the act
They are both concerned with their place in afterlife, Claudius due to his failure to truly repent, and King Hamlet because he never had the chance to.
- Both seem to not so much regret the act rather than the effects of the act.
Claudius believes that the crime isn’t as bad as it sounds, but the ghost believes that the crime is worse than it appears.
The ghost believes that the queen was indirectly related to the crime, while Claudius believes the queen is a prize obtained as a part of the crime.
The ghost mostly discusses how bad the crime itself was, while Claudius is mostly concerned about the repercussions of his crime.
- Claudius is concerned with there being mercy for him, even though he committed such a terrible crime, however, the ghost isn’t even considering there being mercy for Claudius because the crime is so horrendous that he is just worried about revenge.
“It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t,
A brother’s murder.”
Claudius realizes the sheer wickedness of his crime when Shakespeare uses the diction of “primal” and “eldest” to describe Claudius’ murder of his brother as the oldest and most cursed form of murder. Shakespeare’s word choice creates an allusion to the Adam and Eve’s two sons, Cain and Abel. After a competition of offerings, Cain became upset and killed his brother. Upon this action, the Lord said to Cain “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). Shakespeare uses Claudius’ realization of this parallel to indicate his awareness that even heaven is against him until he repents, reflecting the paradox of his imbalance of guilt and greed. This suggests that both King Hamlet’s Ghost and Claudius realize that the sin that Claudius committed is beyond the assistance of heaven, and that it entails a special kind of irrevocable “curse” upon it-- perhaps to further suggest and foreshadow the impossibility of a happy ending due to the sheer magnitude of the crime.
“Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment”
Shakespeare makes yet another allusion to Cain’s murder when he recreates the illusion of peaceful scenery in which both King Hamlet and Abel were killed. King Hamlet recalls how he was murdered while he was “sleeping in the orchard,” while the bible states that Cain murdered Abel “while they were in the field” (Genesis 4:8). Similar to the other allusion, Shakespeare uses this connection to highlight the wickedness of the deed of brotherly murder. The allusion also serves to indicate the same fate is bestowed upon Claudius as was upon Cain. Neither would be able to any longer reap the benefits of what they sowed. In the same Cain could no longer grow crops, Claudius could no longer rest easy as King, and became paranoid. Shakespeare’s continued allusion throughout both soliloquies imbues the story with an ominous supernatural element.
“Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust”
Shakespeare’s adjective choices accurately describe how terrible Claudius and his committed act was as well as reflect King Hamlet’s (ghost) anger towards Claudius. By opening his soliloquy with strong words, it audience anticipates and feels the emotions King Hamlet’s ghost feels toward Claudius. By associating Claudius with the most terrible words: beast, incestuous, traitorous, wicked, shameful, and witchcraft, Shakespeare emphasizes exactly how treacherous killing a brother over one's own ambition is to those who don't believe it to be “a big deal”.
“In the corrupted currents of this world
Offense’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law. But ’tis not so above.”
It appears as if Claudius is trying to talk himself out of feeling guilty by comparing his situation to every other misdeed in the world as something not as terrible. Shakespeare uses phrases like “corrupted currents of this world” to show that there are worse acts committed everywhere else, and words like “justice” and “law” are used to persuade Claudius into thinking that he may have had a legitimate, rightful motive behind killing his brother. It’s also ironic in a sense that King Hamlet’s murder had no investigation behind it to bring rightful justice, but yet, Claudius talks about his offense in terms of the law.
“Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled.
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head.
Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible!”
At this point in King Hamlet’s ghost soliloquy, he talks about how he never had the chance to repent for every sin he had committed. This emphasizes how much he cared about doing the right thing, or at least, ending in good terms with himself. The listing of negative adjectives in the beginning of these phrases just goes to show how upset he is and how upset he is that Claudius murdered him, never giving him the opportunity to repent. All these words and the repetition of “horrible” show the King to have died with his sins still with him, all the “imperfections on [his] head”. It's also ironic that if compared to Claudius and his soliloquy, even though he lives and has the opportunity to repent, he doesn't, showing his indifference and nonchalance about how little he actually cares or he is affected.
“That cannot be, since I am still possessed
Of those effects for which I did the murder:
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen”
Claudius realizing that he’s in a repentance box about to pray and ask for forgiveness, but still will have and want the crown, his own ambition, and his queen even after he prays is a pivoting moment in his soliloquy because he realizes how ironic his action is. He wants to ask for forgiveness for what he’s done, but keep all the benefits that came with his sin. This use of irony allows the audience to notice that Claudius isn’t truly sorry for what he’s done, and doesn’t think it’s as bad as it seems, because if he was, then he would give up every benefit that came with killing his own brother. This use of irony is present in Claudius’ soliloquy to make clear that Claudius realizes his sin, and wants forgiveness, but still wants all the glory and perks regardless of his sin. It shows what kind of power-hungry man and brother Claudius is, and the little amount of guilt and conscience Claudius has. Claudius’ actions further proves that he obviously is not fit to have the crown and rule a country with such an improper morale.
“But howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind”
The ghost wants Hamlet to seek revenge for his death, but the ghost doesn’t want him to taint his mind in the process. This is extremely ironic because being vengeful will harm your mind and soul, but the ghost is still requesting for Hamlet to seek revenge. The use of this irony demonstrates that the ghost believes that the seeking of revenge is possible without the harming of Hamlet’s mind, even though it’s not, and that it is necessary to seek revenge for the crime that Claudius committed. Claudius ended King Hamlet’s life before he could repent for his sins and took his wife just two months after he died. The ghost believes that this is probably one of the worst things Claudius could do, therefore, in order to serve justice, Hamlet must seek revenge, but it’s ironic because it’s not fair for Hamlet to personally punish Claudius, because then he will be harmed and punished in the process as well because he’d being doing something that is not in the name of justice. This device of irony is present in the soliloquy because it helps to show the audience that personally seeking for revenge does not come without consequences.
“And a most instant tetter barked about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust
All my smooth body”
The content and deliverance of this imagery conveys a clear shift in the relationship between King Hamlet and his brother-- from familial to betrayal. The juxtaposition of the gruesome rash with King Hamlet's "smooth body" demonstrates the contrast between his innocence and his immediate fate. The imagery demonstrates the appalling nature of a virtuous man's death, which makes he scenario that much more tragic.
“What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood?
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow?"
This imagery assists in conveying the theme of “death itself not being the worst punishment”. This is furthered by depicting death as being wickedly beautiful, but afterlife as being ambivalent and frightening. Claudius's intense guilt contributes suspense and mystery by allowing a more profound interpretation to be concluded-- Claudius's fate after death.